Comcast Graciously Extends Suspension Of Completely Unnecessary Data Caps

from the how-sweet-of-you dept

After pressure from consumer groups, major ISPs last month announced that they would be suspending all usage caps and overage fees for 60 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, US consumers already pay some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world, and imposing draconian usage restrictions and overage fees created added hardships for consumers already facing unemployment and additional financial headaches due to the pandemic. Being the sweetheart it is, Comcast also stated it would temporarily stop kicking poor folks offline during the pandemic.

This week Comcast announced it would be graciously extending the suspension of said caps for another 60 days. This is, Comcast insists, part of the company's dedication to ensure people remain connected during a crisis:

"These extended measures will continue to keep Americans safe and ensure that households are equipped for students to learn and stay informed at home as the nation copes with this unprecedented disruption to our daily lives,” said Dave Watson, Comcast Cable Chief Executive Officer. “Our services have never been more important, and we’re doing everything we can to keep people connected to the internet."

The problem, as we just got done exploring, is that there's no justification for these limits in the first place. They never should have been imposed, therefore removing them, temporarily, isn't much of a concession or accomplishment.

Both leaked documents and industry executives long ago made it clear: usage caps don't actually help ISPs manage congestion. There's no technical purpose for them. There's no financial justification either, given that flat-rate broadband is perfectly profitable, and "differentiated pricing" already exists for the heaviest of users who need more than a residential connection can provide (aka: a business class line). Usage caps are little more than a cash grab on captive customers in uncompetitive markets, which is a major reason Comcast never implemented them in the Northeast, where uncapped Verizon FiOS is a major competitor.

Caps create an entirely additional problem in that incumbent ISPs can abuse these limits to give themselves an unfair market advantage. AT&T, for example, lifts these unnecessary restrictions for its broadband customers if they use AT&T's own streaming video services, but enforces them if the user uses a competitor's streaming video service like Netflix. Comcast has long exploited the restrictions in much the same fashion. In short not only are caps not technically or financially necessary, they open the door to an entirely new layer of anti-competitive behavior.

So while Comcast will likely grab kudos from press outlets and consumers that don't know any better, there's not much to celebrate about extending a temporary suspension of a business practice that was never justifiable in the first place.

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Filed Under: covid-19, data caps
Companies: comcast


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  1. icon
    Bloof (profile), 1 May 2020 @ 8:01am

    I think we all know how this ends, another extension and quiet changes to terms of service implementing fines for exceeding use caps... And then the suspension ends without a word in the hopes of getting as much money from fines as possible.


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